Interview about Université Paul-Valery Montpellier 3, France
An interview with Matilde Ferrari
How did you find where to spend your semester abroad?
I simply checked the options that were available on the RUG website and then asked some people who went to Montpellier how their experience was.
What were the requirements for you to go to this place?
The only strict requirement was to have at least a level B1 of French. This is because almost every course is taught in French. Although it might seem scary at first, it is totally doable. Obviously, it requires a bit more effort at first, and that is also why you need this language level.
What was/is your favourite sightseeing there?
It is honestly very hard to choose, as I simply loved the South of France. But if I have to pick one it has to be Cascade de la vis. It is a natural site just outside the village of Saint-Laurent-le-Minier, which was recognized as UNESCO World Heritage. I went there with other Erasmus at the beginning of September, and it was simply amazing to have a swim, just admire the waterfalls and the beautiful scenery all around.
What was/is your favourite local food there?
Hate to sound very cliché, but I have to say that a freshly-baked pain au chocolate will never be topped! Very simple, but it really brightened my day sometimes.
Was/is there many green spaces to relax?
The campus is very green and there are a lot of benches and tables where people can sit, have lunch or generally hang out. I managed to take advantage of the sun and warm temperatures up until early November, which is for me, personally, think of as an enormous plus!
Did/do you practice any sports there?
Yes, I took beach volley once a week! The university offers free courses in a lot of different sports (such as badminton, football, rugby etc.) all you need is a medical certificate, stating that you’re healthy enough to practice that particular sport. I thought it was a very nice opportunity to learn a new sport, while also meeting new people, especially French students :)
Did/do you go out a lot? If so, where?
Yes, I went out a lot, even too much, but that’s also part of the Erasmus experience I guess ahah! Montpellier has a lot of very cool bars and café and since the temperatures don’t really drop, we usually sit on terraces. There are also “bars dansant”, where you can either get a drink or dance like in a club. However, all bars in France close at 1 so after that we typically just went to clubs or Erasmus parties. Student life is generally not so association-focused like in the Netherlands, so I typically went out with my group of friends, but every night was quite different because we changed depending on the people we met throughout town. Pro-tip: for the cheapest drinks and best atmosphere, check bar Rebuffy!
What did/do you think of the university? The location? The buildings? The teachers? The study program?
I have to admit that the academic side was a bit challenging at times. The university organization of the courses was quite chaotic and at first, it was quite difficult to pick courses as there was no clear list of options, however both my coordinator and the people at the Erasmus office were accommodating and kind. The campus is undergoing several renovations works, such as the new library building, and most of the other buildings were quite old. However, as I mentioned before, I really liked the green scenery at the campus and the general chill atmosphere there. Another good service was the canteen, which served cheap full meals for 3 euros. The relationship with the teachers is more formal than in the Netherlands. Nonetheless, they were also very helpful with exchange students and offered to help if we faced any problems (especially if we didn’t understand something because of the language barrier). Classes were less interactive as what we’re used to in Groningen, and most of times is just like our lectures. My courses were all from different faculties, but most of them were part of the social science program. While some, for example, were focused on the welfare state in France, others were about policies of diversity or again law of fundamental rights. Generally, they focused on politics and society.
How did/does it go financially? The accommodation? Food? Public transports?
All in all, I would say France is as expensive as The Netherlands, with some differences. Accommodation can be quite cheap if you manage to get it through Crous (provided by the University), as cheap as 180 p.m for a room with a shared kitchen in a student residence. Groceries are usually about the same price, with the difference that you get much better quality here. As for public transport, I generally used the tram where you can have monthly or 10-way tickets. Plus, on the weekends, public transport is free for the residents of the city. However, I would also advise you to get a bike because you get around way easier and you don’t always have to rely on the tram, which stops at 1 am every night.
What was the most surprising thing about this new culture?
They value formality a lot and would always use the most formal way to speak to you if they don’t know you. That happened to me even with people of my own age.
What is the funniest word you learned in the language?
It’s for sure “Baguettes”, because other than the bread, it also means chopsticks. It took me some time to understand that they didn’t want to serve my sushi in an actual baguette.
What did/do you think of the workload?
Unlike other Erasmus students, I had quite a particular experience in terms of courses I had to follow (I had to take 9 courses). The courses were not difficult, and the workload was not heavy compared to Groningen, because we had to prepare very little for the classes. However, the number of courses made it more difficult in the exam period because I had to prepare all of them in 2 weeks. The language was an added challenge of course, but by the end, I got quite used to it, and it was not the most difficult thing about it.
Did/do you meet any international students?
Yeah, most of my friends are Erasmus students, because as it also happens in Groningen it’s just more natural for internationals to meet and hang out with each other. There are a lot of events specifically targeted at international students. I really recommend joining the activities of ESN Montpellier, which are super fun and allow you to meet a lot of new people in a very short time! However, I made some French friends as well. It is a bit more challenging, but I realized they are super nice, open to meeting new people and really appreciate the effort if you try to speak French with them. This also helps if you want to master French slang, which is ultimately something very different from the one we learn at school.
Gradings are given on a scale from 1-10.
Location of the University
(hard to reach <-> close by)
The university is outside the city centre and if you live in a university residence is generally quite easy to reach. However, they’re renovating the tram lines so there are difficulties, depending on where you live
Infrastructure/technology in the University
(no equipment <-> advanced application)
The campus is quite old, and they’re in the midst of renovation works. All university related documents are still done mostly on paper and not really digitalized
Language requirements (English suffices <-> Official Language)
Basically all courses are in French, so you really need at least a B1 knowledge of French
The study programme
(easy <-> difficult)
The study program was definitely easier than in Groningen.
(informal <-> formal)
It’s way more formal, however, if you need help it’s quite easy to reach them
Students from Dutch universities
(few <-> a lot)
I didn’t meet a lot of students from Dutch universities, apart from some other girls from our program
(few international students <-> many international students)
There were quite a lot of international students, especially doing their exchange semester
Points of Interest
(not so many <-> lots of museums etc.)
In Montpellier, there is always a lot of stuff going on, ranging from museum exhibitions to concerts and festivals in general! I absolutely loved it
(only local food <-> great variety of restaurants)
There are a lot of different restaurants and bars, there is a great variety but not a lot that offer vegetarian/vegan food
(none <-> several natural parks/recreational parks)
There are not many parks in the city unfortunately, but the beach is quite nearby (only 15 mins by tram!!)
(limited <-> many options/extra courses)
Through the university, you can access a lot of different sports and courses in general
(limited <-> many theatres/cinemas/pubs)
Again, Montpellier is a very vibrant city full of cafés, bars, and pubs. There are also discounts for students to go to the opera and theatre plays.
(expensive <-> cheap)
Groceries and food-related services are generally as expensive in the Netherlands. But the quality is much better!
(difficult to find & expensive <-> easy & affordable)
I had a private room, which is a bit trickier to find but usually you can apply for the crous and get accommodation pretty easily. It is way cheaper than in the Netherlands
(difficult to acquire <-> very easy to acquire)
You get the Erasmus grant at the very beginning and at the end of the exchange
(expensive <-> cheap)
It is a bit cheaper than in the Netherlands, but it is still quite expensive
(expensive <-> cheap)
Ultimately cheaper than in the Netherlands (from an international POV of course) , as there are discounts for students. Also they are free during the weekends!!
(expensive <-> cheap)
Going out can be quite expensive depending on what you would like to do. Generally a pint of beer is 5 euros and to get into club, you need to pay most of the times.